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Press Release: NTT Com at ITW 2015

NTT Communications Corporation (NTT Com), the global data and IP services arm of Fortune Global 500 telecom leader NTT (NYSE:NTT), announced its participation at the International Telecoms Week (ITW) 2015 taking place in Chicago, May 10-13. ITW is the annual meeting for the global wholesale telecommunications community, bringing together participants from around the world and providing the opportunity to learn and network with industry peers, suppliers and customers.

Mad Men: Beginning of the End, the End of an Era

The first of the final seven Mad Men episodes aired last Sunday at 10/9 p.m. central on AMC. With just six hours remaining, it is the beginning of the end for the show and the characters we have come to know since its premier in 2007. The question on everyone’s mind is, just how exactly will it end?

In recent interviews the head writer and showrunner, Matthew Weiner, has claimed that he knew from the start where the story would end, just not exactly how it was going to get there. Weiner was a writer on the final years of The Sopranos series and had a hand in that memorable finale, so we know that he has some experience in creating a dramatic ending. I’m hoping that the conclusion of Mad Men won’t be as cryptic, but I’m sure that whatever happens it will be the subject of much discussion, criticism and analysis. (David Chase was the head writer and showrunner on The Sopranos, asking Weiner to join his writing team on the strength of his script for the Mad Men pilot.)

Many viewers believe that Don Draper will die in the finale episode. There is no denying that death has been a common theme throughout the series. And the guy (Don) depicted in silhouette in the opening credits is not likely to survive that 30 second free fall. But I’d like to think that having toyed with death in The Sopranos finale, Weiner will choose some other fate for Don. In fact, the real Don Draper is already dead, so why kill him again? And Matthew Weiner makes a point of confounding audience expectations, so I don’t think he will do the obvious thing here.

Don Draper smoking. Photo courtesy and property of AMC.

My bet is that the ending, like the beginning, will have something to do with cigarettes. In the very first episode, S1, Ep1: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Don must come up with a way to sell Lucky Strikes in the wake of the 1960 Reader’s Digest report linking cigarettes to cancer. In last week’s episode we overheard President Nixon on the TV announcing his plans to withdraw 150,000 troops from Vietnam, which puts the series timeline at April 20, 1970. That same month Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banning the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio starting on January 2, 1971. Coincidence?

By the way, the last TV commercial for cigarettes was shown at 11:59 p.m. on January 1, 1972 during a break on The Tonight Show. It was a 60-second ad for Virginia Slims. A “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby” retrospective, from suffragette to woman’s libber (and then, uhm, to lung cancer).

Press Release: NTT Com at Capacity Latam Conference in Rio de Janeiro

NEW YORK & RIO DE JANEIRO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–NTT Communications Corporation (NTT Com), the global data and IP services arm of Fortune Global 500 telecom leader NTT (NYSE: NTT), announced today that it is the exclusive Platinum Sponsor at the Capacity Latam Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and will participate in the conference’s keynote panels.

NTT Communications to Address Challenges and Opportunities in Latin America at Capacity Latam 2015.

A TV Guy on Broadway

This past year I managed to see all but one of the major 2014 Oscar contenders. That’s a lot of movies, but for the sheer number of hours poured into it, TV (and its close cousins Netflix, Amazon, etc.) is my medium. So, as a TV guy, I was a bit of a fish out of water when I wandered onto the Great White Way to catch a preview of Larry David’s Fish in the Dark.

Larry David is a TV guy too. He is the creator and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm which premiered in 2000 and ran for 8 seasons on HBO. That was after he co-created a little show called Seinfeld, named by TV Guide as the best TV show of all time. This pedigree, together with great demographics, set the stage for spectacular ticket sales – a record setting $13.5 million in advanced sales before its first performance. (About those demographics: Seinfeld, set in New York, ran from 1989 to 1998. This means that those 20 and 30-something fans are now in their 40’s and 50’s armed with the nostalgia and, more importantly, the discretionary income to brave Broadway ticket prices.)

The Cort Theater Marquee – LD on the Great White Way (Photo credit: T. Laemmel)

Fish in the Dark officially premiers tomorrow, March 5. Larry David wrote and stars in the play. The marquee exclaims, “His first time on stage since the eighth grade!” The Broadway tradition (astonishingly honored by all legit press) precludes the review of previews. But I’m a TV guy (and not a journalist); I abide by no such code.

It’s not a one-man show, as I had first surmised. I counted 18 actors when they came out for their bows. It’s a whole new set of characters, not quite Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, but definitely the usual suspects. The play centers on the death of a family patriarch. It’s a comedy, bordering on a sex farce. The story line and tone could be a two hour Curb pilot, except it’s live and it “feels” like a play.  The play begins with amplified voices from a bedroom offstage. That was fine, but as soon as the actors took to the stage I found it hard to hear all the dialogue.   I think it’s because Larry David is a TV guy. On a TV set you don’t need to project to the audience. To exacerbate the situation Larry David was a bit hoarse. That’s understandable seeing as he’s the main character (i.e., biggest talker) for eight shows a week (additional matinee shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays, dark on Mondays; another Broadway tradition).

My hearing has not yet started to deteriorate, yetI was still missing some of the dialogue. Because of the aforementioned clientele (mostly aged 50+), Broadway theaters have “Assistive Listening Systems” to boost the audio. Apparently I wasn’t the only one having a hard time. At the intermission there was a run on the booth doling out the headsets. But when I got back to my seat for the second half, I found the boosted audio felt uncomfortably like listening to a television blaring loudly from another room. I wanted a live experience, not canned sound, so at the risk of missing a word or two, I elected to go without.

Norman and Sidney Drexel
Norman Drexel (aka LD) shows his brother Sidney the correct way to stand when acting. (Photo credit: Fish in the Dark)

The next thing I noticed was how lanky and slim Larry David is. This is accentuated by his odd habit of arching backwards when he stands, hyperextended like a bow. You don’t see that on television. Otherwise much of what I saw I could have expected on TV. Larry David played a character that was very much like Larry David, no surprises there. All of the other actors were stage and TV veterans and did their parts admirably. Rosie Perez, as the housekeeper with a secret, was an unexpected and pleasant surprise for me (alas, not for you!) The dialogue was quick and witty, but palpably more TV sitcom-style than Broadway play.

A few other things bugged me. The audience clapped when recognizable characters came out on stage. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, except it revealed just how primed people were to revel in the cozy comfort of the tried and true, the Curb and Seinfeld familiarity. At one point LD is asked how something was (I forgot what) and he milked his reply, “Pretty good. Pretttty, pretty good!” and the crowd roared its approval. I’m sorry, for me the audiences’ response was just a bit too revealing of why we were all there. I thought embarrassingly of the folks that would shout “Nanu! Nanu!” at Robin Williams for years after his Mork & Mindy days.

And then there was the bit of a deus-ex-machina in the form of a text message towards the very end of the show that left a bad taste in my mouth. The only bit of weak writing, I saw it as a quick trick to patch the family back together, enabling us to leave the theater with a happy feeling. If you ask me, an ancient and awkward device for the kind of money we’re paying. How much exactly? A $140 a ticket for decent seats. Prices range from $49.00 to $275.00 when purchased directly from the theater if you can get them (most are on the resale market now). The $50 seats are in the nosebleed sections and $275 gets you the first few rows. Broadway is a unique experience, it is not TV after all, so one can justify the occasional extravagance. How much you like Fish in the Dark will depend upon on just how much you liked Seinfeld and Curb. In other words, your enjoyment depends on just how much of a TV guy/gal you are.

Larry David as Norman Drexel
Larry David as Norman Drexel.(Photo credit: Fish in the Dark)
LD on Broadway
LD’s Broadway debut (Photo credit: Fish in the Dark)

I Would Watch You, If You Were the Last Man on Earth

I am looking forward to the premiere of The Last Man on Earth. The half-hour series stars Will Forte, and debuts with two back-to-back shows on Sunday, March 1, 9:00pm ET/PT on FOX. (TV-14 D, L, V).

Fox describes the new series as “an end-of-the-world comedy.” If that sounds a bit warped to you, it does to me, too. And it’s also why I’m looking forward to seeing how they will pull this off. The concept, and the name, has a long list of antecedents, beginning (from a movie/TV standpoint at least) with the 1964 science fiction horror film based on the Richard Matheson 1954 novel I Am Legend. The movie was called The Last Man on Earth and starred the legendary genre star Vincent Price. (Not to be confused with 1971’s The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston, or 2007’s I Am Legend starring Will Smith.

So, how do you make a comedy series out of a horror movie premise? The answer seems to be by having some fun with it. This version of The Last Man on Earth is living in a post-apocalyptic utopia where an average Joe named Phil Miller (Will Forte) discovers what life is like when there are no rules and no one to tell you what to do. “I get to do a lot of wish-fulfillment stuff,” Forte told writers at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. That sounds like fun!

Will Forte as Phil Miller
Will Forte as Phil Miller, possibly the last man on earth… (Photo credit: FOX)

And if you are worried that watching Will Forte walk around in his underwear stealing and smashing things might get boring, consider this: maybe he’s not the last person on earth after all. January Jones (of Mad Men and X-Men) and Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard and about 90 other things) are just two of the cast listed on the show’s IMDB site. Yes, some are men. Don’t let that ruin the premise for you, though. There’s no reason they can’t appear in flashbacks. Or maybe he’s not really the last man on earth. Or, like the previous Last Man on Earth iterations, some may appear concurrent with the last real man as “medicated zombies” (as in the The Omega Man).

Still, the trailer makes it all look kind of bleak. Maybe that’s why it took so long for this series to find a place in the Fox lineup. The trailer was posted almost a year ago and there are thousands (millions maybe?) of cat videos which have garnered more views. It looks like the series was originally planned for the 2014 fall season, or maybe a mid-season replacement.

Alas, just because I am looking forward to it doesn’t mean I don’t think this quirky genre-bending series is doomed. Mark my words, this is a one season show. It will be cancelled. But cancelled schmancelled, think of it as a one season mini-series and a great experience to watch and share with your Snackdish buddies. I know I’ll be there! Watch the first official trailer here.

The Last Man on Earth
The Last Man on Earth (Photo credit: FOX)

A version of this article also appeared on the Snackdish users blog — a very cool but now defunct social platform for TV and movies which closed its doors in 2018.

Placement: Blackburn “Think positive, horror freaks”

A little local Vancouver love for Blackburn, the movie.

“The latest scary movie to be shot in these parts is Blackburn, which will be released by Raven Banner Entertainment. The film—which stars Calum Worthy (Disney’s Austin & Ally), Lochlyn Munro (Freddy vs. Jason), Sarah Lind (WolfCop) and Emily Ullerup (Sanctuary)—is about five college friends who, after a forest fire and rock slide, are trapped in a small Alaskan ghost town with a horrifying history.”From Blackburn, the movie.

“Director Lauro Chartrand went the extra scary mile by casting local horror champs the Soska Sisters (American Mary) and getting actors/stuntmen Ken Kirzinger (Jason Vorhees from Freddy vs. Jason) and Brad Loree (Michael Myers from Halloween: Resurrection) to play the hideously deformed villains Digits and 3eyes.”


Placement: Startup Spotlight shines on Snackdish

See what GeekWire has to say today about Snackdish and the cool work they are doing for TV and movie fans – just in time for the 2015 TV and movie season!


GeekWire Startup Spotlight shines on Snackdish – or click on above graphic